Vera Cruz (1954)


Introduction

Vera Cruz is a 1954 American Western film starring Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster, and featuring Denise Darcel, Sara Montiel, Cesar Romero, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson and Jack Elam.

Outline

During the Franco-Mexican War, ex-Confederate soldier Ben Trane (Cooper) travels to Mexico seeking a job as a mercenary. He falls in with Joe Erin (Lancaster), a gunslinger who heads a gang of cutthroats (Ernest Borgnine, Jack Elam, Charles Bronson, Archie Savage, and others). They are recruited by Marquis Henri de Labordere (Cesar Romero) for service with Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico (George Macready) Maximilian offers them $25,000 to escort Countess Duvarre (Denise Darcel) to the city of Veracruz. Trane gets the emperor to double the offer.

During a river crossing, Trane notices that the stagecoach in which the countess is traveling is extremely heavy. Erin and Trane later discover that hidden inside are six cases of gold coins. The countess informs them that it is worth $3 million which is intended to pay for reinforcements from Europe. They form an uneasy alliance to steal and split the gold. Unbeknownst to them, the marquis is listening from the shadows.

The Juaristas, led by General Ramírez (Morris Ankrum), attack the column several times. Pickpocket and Juarista undercover agent Nina (Sara Montiel) joins the convoy. When Trane, Erin and their men are surrounded by the Juaristas, Trane persuades Ramirez to join forces and agree to pay them $100,000. The marquis succeeds in getting the gold to Veracruz. In the Juarista attack, the French are defeated, but most of Erin’s men are killed. Erin attempts to steal the gold for himself by getting the countess to reveal the location of the ship she had hired to transport it. He even kills one of his own men. However, Trane arrives in time to confront him. They face off in a showdown that ends in Erin’s death. Trane and Nina leave, while women search the dead for their loved ones.

Cast

  • Gary Cooper as Ben Trane.
  • Burt Lancaster as Joe Erin.
  • Denise Darcel as Countess Marie Duvarre.
  • Cesar Romero as Marquis Henri de Labordere.
  • Sara Montiel as Nina (billed as Sarita Montiel).
  • George Macready as Emperor Maximilian.
  • Ernest Borgnine as Donnegan.
  • Morris Ankrum as General Ramírez.
  • Henry Brandon as Captain Danette.
  • Charles Bronson as Pittsburgh (as Charles Buchinsky).
  • Jack Lambert as Charlie.
  • Jack Elam as Tex.
  • James McCallion as Little-Bit.
  • James Seay as Abilene.
  • Archie Savage as Ballard.
  • Charles Horvath as Reno.
  • Juan García as Pedro.

Production

Burt Lancaster and Harold Hecht had just signed a contract with United Artists to make two films, starting with Apache, directed by Robert Aldrich. Just before filming on that movie began in October 1953, Lancaster announced their second film would be Vera Cruz with himself and Gary Cooper, based on a story by Borden Chase.

In December 1953, after Apache finished filming, Lancaster announced Aldrich would direct Vera Cruz.

United Artists were so happy with Apache they changed the two-picture deal with Hecht and Lancaster into a two-year deal covering seven films.

Mari Blanchard was meant to play the female lead and Hecht signed to borrow her from Universal. However, there was a clause forbidding her to appear on television which Hecht disagreed with. Instead they cast Denise Darcel.

Filming

Filming started in February 1954 in Mexico. By May the unit had shifted to Estudios Churubusco.

Aldrich and Lancaster got along well on Apache but as to Vera Cruz, the director said “we probably had a less amicable relationship than we anticipated. This was because Burt, until he directed The Kentuckian, thought he was going to be a director and when you’re directing your first great big picture you don’t welcome somebody else on hand with directorial notions. There were a few differences of opinion about concepts and about action.”

Release

The film earned an estimated $5 million at the North American box office during its first run and $9 million overall.

The movie was a particularly big hit in France.

In 1963 Aldrich announced he was working on a sequel There Really Was a Gold Mine but it was never made.

Home Media

Vera Cruz was released to DVD by MGM Home Video on 01 April 2003, and to Blu-Ray on 07 June 2011.

Trivia

  • You Can’t Win ‘Em All, a 1970 film with a similar plot set during the time of the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922).
  • The movie was directed by Robert Aldrich from a story by Borden Chase.
  • The picture’s amoral characters and cynical attitude towards violence (including a scene where Lancaster’s character threatens to murder child hostages) were considered shocking at the time and influenced future Westerns such as The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Professionals (1966), Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969), and the films of Sergio Leone, which often featured supporting cast members from Vera Cruz in similar roles.
  • The film was spoofed in the 1986 cult comedy Three Amigos, directed by John Landis.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • Robert Aldrich.
  • Producer(s):
    • Harold Hecht … co-producer (uncredited).
    • James Hill … producer.
    • Burt Lancaster … co-producer (uncredited).
  • Writer(s):
    • Roland Kibbee … (screenplay).
    • James R. Webb … (screenplay).
    • Borden Chase … (story).
  • Music:
    • Hugo Friedhofer.
  • Cinematography:
    • Ernest Laszlo … (photography).
  • Editor(s):
    • Alan Crosland Jr. … (uncredited).
  • Production:
    • Hecht-Lancaster Productions.
    • Flora Productions (copyright holder).
  • Distributor(s):
    • United Artists (1954) (USA) (theatrical) (as A United Artists Release).
    • C.B. Films S.A. (1955) (Spain) (theatrical).
    • Cosmopol-Film (1955) (Austria) (theatrical).
    • Dear Film (1955) (Italy) (theatrical).
    • Les Artistes Associés S.A.B. (1955) (Belgium) (theatrical).
    • Les Artistes Associés (1955) (France) (theatrical).
    • United Artists (1955) (UK) (theatrical).
    • United Artists (1955) (Argentina) (theatrical).
    • United Artists (1955) (Sweden) (theatrical).
    • United Artists (1955) (West Germany) (theatrical).
    • Kommunenes Filmcentral (KF) (1955) (Norway) (theatrical).
    • Adams Filmi (1956) (Finland) (theatrical).
    • American Broadcasting Company (ABC) (1962) (USA) (TV).
    • MTV3 (1971) (Finland) (TV) (as MTV1).
    • MGM/UA Home Entertainment (1993) (USA) (video) (laserdisc).
    • MGM/UA Home Video (1994) (USA) (VHS) (Full-screen).
    • MGM/UA Home Entertainment (1997) (USA) (VHS) (Full-screen).
    • MGM/UA Home Entertainment (1997) (USA) (VHS) (Widescreen).
    • Warner Home Video (1997) (USA) (VHS).
    • MGM Home Entertainment (2001) (USA) (DVD).
    • Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment (2005) (Netherlands) (DVD).
    • 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (2007) (USA) (DVD) (Included in MGM Movie Legends Collection”).
    • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) (2008) (Germany) (DVD).
    • 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (2011) (USA) (Blu-ray).
    • 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (2011) (USA) (DVD).
    • Rai Movie (2016) (Italy) (TV).
    • Swashbuckler Films (2018) (France) (theatrical) (re-release) (restored version).
    • Pathé-Baby Portugal (Portugal) (theatrical) (16 mm).
    • CBS/Fox (USA) (VHS).
    • FR3 (1982) (France) (TV) (dubbed version).
    • MGM Home Entertainment (USA) (VHS).
    • The Criterion Channel (2020) (USA) (TV) (digital).
    • Yleisradio (YLE) (1993) (Finland) (TV).
  • Release Date: 25 December 1954 (US).
  • Running Time: 94 minutes.
  • Rating: PG.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

Video Link

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